New hope to find missing Maddie

The mysterious disappearance of Madeleine McCann is continuing with a former police officer shedding new light on the case.

Three-year-old Maddie vanished from a holiday apartment in Portugal’s Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.

She had been left sleeping alone with her younger twin siblings while her parents were dining in a nearby tapas restaurant with friends.

Her grieving parents celebrated what would’ve been her 18th birthday last week.

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Christian Brueckner, the prime suspect behind her disappearance, remains in jail for drug offences, and is appealing a seven-year sentence for raping a 73-year-old woman in the same town Maddie disappeared.

Mike Neville, a former police chief investigator who worked on the McCann case for years, said a recent announcement from German police may finally the family some closure.

But, Mr Neville added, some developments were getting lost in translation.

“We can only hope she is still alive, but I think there is a real confusion about the phrase of the Germans used, concrete evidence,” he told Sunrise.

“In Britain and probably Australia, that means there is absolutely top drawer evidence, fingerprints, DNA, CCTV and alike.

“In Germany, however, it generally means it is something tangible, not just a rumour.

“In Britain you would charge someone with concrete evidence, but in Germany, you may not even arrest them. I do think we got the wrong end of the stick sometimes with this difference in translation.”

Mr Neville said investigators were waiting to hear exactly what “concrete” evidence German police had uncovered — with reports suggesting Brueckner’s phone records linked him to the area at the time Maddie disappeared.

“It possibly is (the phone records), but as I say, even if they do have phone records to link him to the area at that time, it still won’t be sufficient evidence to charge with and … we really need to get to the bottom of this and find out what happened to this poor little girl,” he said.

“We can only hope she is alive somewhere and we can reunite her with her parents.”

Mr Neville said the investigation route of interviewing old witnesses should be dropped and police should use hi-tech methods to try and find Maddie.

“I don’t think the key is looking into witnesses who didn’t see much 14 years ago and know even less now,” he said.

“It’s very hard to exist in this world today without an image of you, so you might want to be on Facebook but you get caught in the background of another image.”

Mr Neville, who now runs a private investigation company, said he had been working with “human super-recognisers — people who never forget faces” to help make breakthroughs on cases.

“I’ve also got the world’s first conviction for using pattern technology,” he said.

“If you look at Madeleine, she’s got a very distinctive line in the right eye, in the iris.

“There’s only about 70 people in a million that have that, and when you take into account sex and age it’s even less.

“So as far as a computer is concerned, that is a pattern. You could find it using a computer, if she was on the internet.

“She was also wearing distinctive pyjamas when she was kidnapped. These wicked paedophiles who make videos and stuff, they are on high-quality videotape. That would present another opportunity where we can find stuff.

“I think we need to start using images to try crack this case. That is how we would find out if she is alive today and if things were done to her.”

When questioned if these techniques were something investigators had already used, Mr Neville said it was likely police hadn’t adopted such hi-tech methods yet.

“The police are very good at things like DNA or fingerprints but when it comes images, we are still behind in the world,” he said.

“If you look at the Australian police, they’re very much like the British police.

“There will be a national DNA and finger print database, but not an national image database.

“This is a way that we could try and track and super-recognisers, humans, they would recognise you before you are famous.

“So I believe using this combination of technology and the best humans, I suggest is the best way to find this girl.”

Maddie’s parents last week said they “hang on to hope, however small” that they will be reunited with their “lovely” daughter one day.

“This year it is particularly poignant as we should be celebrating Madeleine’s 18th birthday,” her parents Gerry and Kate wrote.

“As we have said repeatedly, we need to know what has happened to our lovely daughter, no matter what.

“We are very grateful to the police for their continued efforts. We hang on to the hope, however small, that we will see Madeleine again.”

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